NYC’s ‘Bean’ is roasted: Big Apple’s Cloud Gate doesn’t measure up

When it comes to pizza, cheesecake or hotdogs, Chicago has it over New York City. And now, who’s got the better Bean? We do.

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People pose and take pictures against the reflective sculpture and permanent public artwork by artist Anish Kapoor in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, NY, February 2, 2023. 

People pose and take pictures against the reflective sculpture and permanent public artwork by artist Anish Kapoor in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, NY, February 2, 2023.

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Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate turns 17 this year, and if there is ever a reason to appreciate the sculpture anew, New York City — and Kapoor himself — gave it to us a few days ago.

The Big Apple last week unveiled its own smaller version of the Bean. But rather than making the silver stainless steel sculpture the centerpiece of a great park, Kapoor’s untitled new work looks like a giant dollop of mercury spilling out of the base of a 60-story luxury high rise in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood.

Which is a minor shame, as far as these things go. Part of Cloud Gate’s beauty is the dynamic fashion in which Chicago’s sky, buildings and people all play out across the sculpture’s highly polished surfaces.

Not to mention the view from the east, with the Michigan Avenue street wall lining up behind the sculpture. It’s a testament to its near-perfect siting.

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The NYC Bean, on the other hand, squats right there on the sidewalk, with an expensive condo building pressing down on top of it. Not the same impact.

“The city can feel frenetic, fast and hard, imposing architecture, concrete, noise,” Kapoor said in a statement to the Tribeca Citizen. “My work … proposes a form that, though made of stainless steel, is also soft and ephemeral. Mirrors cause us to pause, to be absorbed and pulled in a way that disrupts time, slows it down perhaps. It’s a material that creates a new kind of immaterial space.”

But Alex Greenberger of ARTnews panned the sculpture as the “mini-bean … an eyesore that no one asked for.”

Berger wrote, “[T]his sculpture is no Cloud Gate, and personally, I wouldn’t mind if the building above it made good on its promise and crushed the thing altogether. Kapoor’s latest is a big, shiny, reflective object that feels like the final boss of ugly public art in New York — not that that will stop people from flocking to it.”

Naturally, the new sculpture provides a little fresh ammunition in the ongoing cultural war between Chicago and New York.

For a century it’s been, “Who has the better pizza, us or them?” (Us. Our tavern-cut thin crust is a Michael Jordan slam dunk over that greasy wedge New Yorkers eat.) The best cheesecake? The best hot dog?

And now, who’s got the best Kapoor — the better Bean, if you will? Once again, it’s Chicago.

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